What is it about a set of steps? I can’t pass an old set of steps without feeling some form of emotion. Longing. Hope. Desire. Wistfulness. Excitement. Curiosity. The ones that call to me the most, the loudest, are the old mossy stairs that led into bodies of water like a lake or river or up into shrouded woods.
I suppose it’s in part the mystery they offer my dreamy brain. I can conjure up all the people who might have traveled up and down those steps over the decades…centuries. What their agendas might have been. Whether they raced along their path or trod slowly with heavy feet. What awaited at their destination. For a writer, that kind of stuff is inspirational fodder for a writing prompt.
And it’s also what they offer. Steps are a way to get from where we are now and either go up ‘there’ or down ‘there’. It’s the chance to leave the place we are and go to something different. Better? Surely so, or else why bother going? Explore? Escape? Rendezvous?
This is a photo of some concrete steps I discovered while visiting Ireland some years ago. In the port city of Galway, these were nestled near the bridge leading into a large river, flowing into the sea. I was memorized, and sat there for what surely my hosts considered entirely too long. Soon afterward, I scribbled this missive, trying to capture the emotions the sight stirred within my soul.
It was a surprise to see them, discreetly tucked away by the bridge’s shadow. The concrete flights of stairs and wrought iron railing dressed in green algae.
Half buried in the water, leading into a dark abyss.Or are they a pathway, leading out of the cold depths instead?
Flowing down from the Lough Corrib. under the city’s stone grey bridge.Rushing now in its hast to reach the openness of Galway Bay.
Gulls, geese and others fly overhead, swans gracefully paddle and people talk. Each ignorant or simply not caring about the steps leadong nowhere and somewhere.
These steps, they call to me, coaxing me to the water’s lapping. Staring into the dark fathoms they whisper, peer into the truth.
Why are they here? Where do they go? How far down till they end? My mind asks. But the honest answer is this: they represent a visible manifest of life’s highway.
My stairs, dark, along, silent and forgotten, they hold a coveted key. Where are we going? Where have we come from? They silently offer clues to those who seek.
Peering into the murky darkness of the river’s cold water I sit and speculate. She’s like another language. My hand holds her cold offering. I try to decipher it. I sense the presence of other souls.
Are they the souls who have perished in the cold ocean depths?Longing to return to port and sinking to a watery grave instead? Or are the souls of Galway visitors past, drawn to the stairs such as I…seeking? Listening?
I long to follow the stairs down beyond the water’s hem. Allow myself to sink softly into the cold, silent, dark depths. Perhaps in this watery, quiet world I’ll hear the answers to the questions of my heart.
What lies at the bottom of the steps? Like the limited boundaries of outer space. And the faithlessness ideas of undersea worlds. They are the spaces of earth off limits to us mortals, always to be a mystery.
On my way to work, I pass a set of narrow wooden steps, built into a hillside and covered with moss. It’s doubtful they are used now, but the area is rich with history so I have to wonder why they were placed there. I suspect once the road was paved and became heavy with traffic, the need for climbing the hill ended and nature is slowly reclaiming the hill.